The French got accustomed to the Hollywood term ‘biopic’, short for ‘biographical picture’, following Olivier Dahan’s 2007 film La Vie En Rose which was inspired by the life of French singer Edith Piaf. Joann Sfar, author of comic strips, here makes his director’s debut with Gainsbourg and claims he did not want to direct a biopic.
With Drew Barrymore’s big time acting debut now a distant memory and E.T. firmly filed under the “All Time Classics” section in every film guide ever, it seems apt that its once cherub-like child star is back and wowing everyone with her directorial debut Whip It.
Pascal Alex-Vincent’s debut feature looks at a fraught brotherly bond. Having recently lost the mother they never met, identical twins Quentin (Victor Carril) and Antoine (Alexandre Carril) leave their baker father behind and make the journey to Spain to say their final goodbyes. Due to their lack of funds, the eighteen year olds end up hitch-hiking from their small French village to Barcelona. Siblings always argue, but the tension is central to Quentin and Antoine’s loving connection. A true case of they can’t stand being together, but apart is even more daunting. A twisting an turning emotional rollercoaster of a journey sees the pair separate en route with varied consequences.
Winner of the Special Youth Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Claude Brisseau’s social commentary on neglected youth is as relevant in 2010 as it was in 1988. Bruno (Vincent Gasperitsch) is a quiet boy who has just moved into a run-down high rise with his never present mother. His mother needs to work all the hours possible in order to give her son any type of life, meaning their only communication is through letters. Starting a new school, Bruno befriends resident trouble maker Jean-Roger (Francois Negret). Jean-Roger has an equally troubled background. His Grandfather (Antono Garcia) is bed-ridden with terminal illness, whilst his father Marcel (Bruno Cremer) is a gun crazy drunk annoyed at his eldest son Thierry’s (Thierry Helaine) determination to break the family mould. Thankfully, Bruno’s teacher (Fabienne Babe) recognises his potential and tries to take him under her wing.
Marie (Judith Davis) is an inexperienced country girl moving to the big bad, scary city to study piano at the conservatoire. Naive, innocent but attractive, it is inevitable that Marie will be the focus of many a wandering eye. Thankfully she will not be entirely alone as she starts this exciting yet scary chapter of her life. Marie will be moving in with Emma (Isild Le Besco), her icy childhood friend. Emma’s father has recently passed away and her artist mother allegedly moved to New York, leaving her alone in the family’s luxurious Lyon apartment. The childhood friendship waned when Marie failed to return phone calls, prompting a frosty reception from the mysterious and sombre Emma. However, in the excitement of starting at the Conservatoire de Lyon, France’s second most prestigious music school, Marie’s innocent excitement allows her to get lost in her situation.
With the Judd Apatow machine seemingly neglecting its tri-monthly oil injection, it is a welcome pleasure to see new pretenders stepping up to fill the teen comedy void, albeit with familiar faces providing the laughs. Youth in Revolt, based on the diarised C.D. Payne novels, follows the lovelorn, awkward and unfortunately named Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) as he attempts to change his tame existence by bequeathing his intellectual, emotional and virginal desires upon aloof, holiday fling Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Although sharing Nick’s cool-cat tastes in pop culture and overcooked philosophy, Sheeni, an elegant, haughty non-virgin, makes it clear that she lusts after more assertive men.
After emerging from a complex cave system where the events of The Descent took place, a bloodied, bruised and traumatised Sarah Carter (Shauna MacDonald) is taken to hospital in a deep state of shock. Learning of Sarah’s reappearance, the coordinator of the rescue team searching for her and her missing friends, local Sheriff Redmond Vaines, rushes over to the hospital to question her. Insensitive to Sarah’s confused and distressed state, Vaines immediately considers her guilty of deception when she is unable to answer questions regarding the whereabouts of her friends. Concluding her memory need only be jogged in order to uncover the truth, he forces her to re-enter the caves with himself, his partner and the rescue team, oblivious to the horrors that await them.
Every year there is always one surprise nomination at the Oscars, it could be said that Frozen River ticked that box on the 2008 shortlist. Written and directed by unknown Courtney Hunt, the film received the nomination for Best Screenplay, and Melissa Leo was also touted as “Best Actress” for her portrayal of struggling mother Ray Eddy. Having received numerous awards yet minimal theatrical success, why did Frozen River disappear without a trace?
Giving Michael Mann the story of famed 1930s American bank robber John Dillinger and putting Johnny Depp in the lead role opposite another acting heavywieght in the shape of Christian Bale should have set the screen alight with a Heat-esque masterpiece of cop verses robber. The tommy gun-fuelled heists during Depression Era in the States interlaced with the study of a hardened criminal are prime material for Mann to use to get his top Hollywood stars fired up. Yet Public Enemies falls way short of expectation due to a clumsy narrative and strangely lifeless lead actors meandering through more than two hours of screentime.
Paul Auster, the critically acclaimed American crime writer has often dabbled in the world of the screenplay. Back in 1996, he even won a handful of awards for his debut effort Smoke. The Inner Life Of Martin Frost, his latest effort, sees a return to the genre after nearly a decade away. The film started life as a potential short back in 1999, with Willem Dafoe and Kate Valk pencilled in as the leads, but after reconsideration, Auster walked away from the project. He resurrected the piece, but not as a screenplay but rather as prose, at the end of his 2002 novel The Book of Illusions. Deciding on a break from novel writing, Auster finally decided to revisit the screenplay and got backing to produce it as a feature, with eventual filming taking place in 2007.
Loneliness and the quest for love are universal problems. They are also often interconnected, a need for someone can often be exaggerated by a feeling of solitude. Blue Eyelids (Parpados azules), the feature film debut of Mexican director and screenwriter Ernesto Contreras follows friendless Marina Farfan (Cecilia Suarez), an attractive but extremely shy 30 something. Marina works for Lulita (Ana Ofelia Murguia) in a uniform shop. Every year, the ailing Lulita celebrates her good fortune, which is apparently thanks to a small red bird, by holding a raffle for her staff. Marina finds herself winning an all inclusive dream beach holiday for two, but has no-one to go with. However, after work she is sat in a coffee shop when a long forgotten school friend Victor Mina (Enrique Arreola) spots her. He recognises her instantly but she has no recollection of him. He too is now mid 30s and alone. The rest as they say is history.
Euthanasia is a contentious issue. The word has its origins in the Greek and could be translated simply as ‘good death’. Goodbye Solo, in its own fashion, deals with the subject area. William (Red West) is 70 years old and has regrets about the way he lives his life. He strikes up a deal with his Senegalese taxi driver Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), whom he books to take him all the way to Blowing Rock and leave him there. Solo agrees, but not without forcing himself upon the lonely William in the two week build up period.
Sacha Baron Cohen may have won an army of fans in America on the back of his escapades as Kazaksthan reporter Borat, but as an Austrian gay fashion television host makes for a poor follow up. Gone is the innocence, or at least the perceived innocence, that came with a foreign television celebrity trying to understand foreign customs and in its place comes a none-too-subtle character who is just too in-your-face gay to take seriously and as a result Bruno gets fewer laughs despite Sacha Baron Cohen going to greater lengths to shock and put people who normally occupy a lofty position in America in uncomfortable situations they could only have imagined in their nightmares.
Growing old in a body increasingly unable to do what it once found so easy when youthful and agile is not a problem for Benjamin Button: the older he gets, the younger his body grows. Born a overtly wrinkly baby with cataracts and other degenerative diseases, he is abandoned by his parents on the stairs of care home. There he is raised alongside those who are seeing out the last years of their lives, and Button soon finds he is at odds with the people surrounding him except one young girl who keeps appearing in his life.
After a bit of a dry spell, vampires seem to be back in vogue. Along with a big Hollywood outing in the form of Twilight, we have Let The Right One In from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. The vampire genre is typically replete with darkness, solitude and an unremitting desire for bloodshed and, although all of these are brought to the table, Alfredson ultimately struggles to define his movie effectively.
You, like me, might roll your eyes at the sight of another comedy of men behaving like teenagers and being bad influences on the next generation. We’ve been spoilt by much of Judd Apatow’s output and there’s always the fear be stuck with too many copycat movies offering little in the way of genuine humour. It’s pleasing, then, that Apatow regular, Paul Rudd, and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse follow up their involvement with the successful comedy creator with more zany antics which err the right side of stupid to produce characters who display heart.
One of last year’s most critically acclaimed films, the Golden Globe winning Waltz with Bashir arrives on DVD. Focusing on the Sabra and Shatila massacre of the 1982 Lebanon war, director, narrator and subject, Ari Folman reflects on personal and collective responsibility in the most hallucinatory depiction of warfare since Apocalypse Now.
The most revered graphic novel, the greatest superhero story ever told and one of the most long-awaited adaptations in movie history ambles rather than strides onto the big screen as a blockbuster behemoth with hype and expectation which simply can’t be matched when lifted from the pages illustrated by Dave Gibbons and written by the celebrated Alan Moore. While this may well be the best representation of Moore’s work in cinematic form, it’s streamlined form belies much of the depth offered off-screen and comes across as far more trivial than an adaptation of Watchmen deserves to be.
First-time writer/director Gerald McMorrow gets off to an impressive start with his sci-fi style tale of revenge, but quickly goes down hill when he tries to relate his fantasy settings to real world situations in this disappointing debut feature. Starring a mostly-masked Ryan Phillippe, former Bond girl Eva Green and Control’s Sam Riley, Franklyn had the potential to be a rewarding and memorable movie spanning a fantasy world and our own. It winds up shooting itself in the foot by withdrawing the fantasy elements too soon, preventing the climax attaining its full potential.
After his disastrous series of English films, Woody Allen finds himself back on track with the award-winning Vicky Cristina Barcelona. On the eve of her wedding, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) travels to Barcelona to research her masters in Catalan identity with best friend, the directionless Christina (Scarlett Johansson). Over several bottles of wine, suave painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) propositions the girls to join him for a weekend in the city of Oviedo. As they both fall for his charms, fiery ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz) appears, creating a schism in the fragile relationships being formed under the Mediterranean sun.
A Coen brothers movie is always a quirky affair. Their characters are odd, their stories take sudden twists and they tend to end all of a sudden. Burn After Reading sees them all combine as a CD containing information becomes a catalyst for events to go very wrong in a lighter offering than last year’s Oscar winner No Country for Old Men
Mickey Rourke delivers both a sombre analysis of his own career and one of the finest performances in contemporary American cinema. His face beaten to shit, two divorces, and the best part of twenty years confined in Hollywood purgatory behind him, Rourke inhabits the role of ‘broken down piece of meat’ Randy “The Ram” Robinson, in the way few actors (not least of whom Nicolas Cage) could ever dream of. As much of a comback for director Darren Aronofsky after the failure of The Fountain, this fable of a former superstar’s last chance at greatness goes beyond mere career rehabilitation, to reach the highest level of cinematic artistry.
Once considered the funniest man in Hollywood, rubber-faced Jim Carrey always used to rely on his exuberance to deliver a combination of comic lines, faces and general outlandish behaviour. While his more dramatic roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon saw a serious side to his acting abilities, he has always had the biggest successes of his career in high concept offerings which are essentially one joke stretched out over an entire movie with varying results. Yes Man continues this trend based on Danny Wallace’s book of the same name which essentially provides a basis for a generic romantic comedy.
Whether or not Transporter 3 was given the greenlight just so next year a trilogy boxset could be released and producer Luc Besson can survive the credit crunch on its sales, it’s not going to do Jason Statham’s career any favours. After the first movie in 2002 proved he could bulk up as an action star and the second three years later was an uncomplicated sequel featuring more high speed chases, frenetic shoot outs and hard-hitting fight scenes, here Statham returns as beefcake delivery driver Frank Martin following a four year gap in the series.
Jet Li’s reputation was put under strain when he started focusing on Hollywood movies. Following the success of Lethal Weapon 4, the once renowned martial artist became increasingly mocked as each new English language feature seemed to utilise less and less of his martial arts skill and render his attempts at acting in a foreign language laughable. Romeo Must Die, The One and War were some of the forgettable movies he lent his name to until he returned to China for Hero in 2002 and delivered one of the performances of his career. Chinese battlefield epic The Warlords has won a string of awards in his home country, and is further proof of his abilities away from the fat paychecks available in the States.